How Forrest Gump Leapt Through American History With ILM's Stunning Special Effects

How Forrest Gump Leapt Through American History With ILM’s Stunning Special Effects

Nearly 30 years later, the special effects of Zemeckis’ film are still as successful.

TMC will rebroadcast Tonight Forrest Gump, the Robert Zemeckis classic worn by Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Sally Fields and Gary Sinise. A tour de force rewarded with 6 Oscars: best film and director for Zemeckis, best adapted screenplay for Eric Roth, best actor for Tom Hanks (his second after the one received for philadelphia), best editing for Arthur Schmidt and best visual effects for the team of Ken Ralston, of Industrial Light and Magic, the company of George Lucas. These are precisely the VFX that are analyzed in the video below, precisely those of the scene where Forrest meets President John Fitzgerald Kennedy at the White House.

The effect, regularly used in current blockbusters, has almost become “trivial”, but in 1994, it was rare in the cinema: Tom Hanks had to play on a blue screen, rehearsing his scene multiple times in order to record it from all angles so that he could digitally integrate JFK into it. The two characters can thus shake hands on the screen, two decades after the death of the president. “If we want to integrate Tom Hanks and JFK in the same plan, it has to be perfect”explains Zemeckis in the preamble, before the actor recounts his experience with a laugh: “Tom never told us how it was going to work, exactly. I had to shake an imaginary hand over and over again. Bob was like, ‘Look this way, turn around, there you go, shake, shake, shake, ok…’ I was stuck in a hellish loop! A real automaton. I thought : ‘Come on, hang me on some strings, so I can play this while taking a nap!’

Tom’s gaze had to be perfectly aligned with that of the president from the archive images, and his hand also had to be positioned to the nearest millimeter. Then, to make JFK’s lips stick to his line, their movement was computer-altered. Finally, so that the modern images, shot in color, could be mixed with the modified black and white archives, the color grading made it possible to adjust the lighting of the two sequences. Ditto for another sequence, in color, this time, with Richard Nixon.

Robert Zemeckis: Beyond Appearances

Along the same lines, the scenes with Sergeant Dan’s severed legs were also filmed using blue tights so they could be digitally erased. Overall, the special effects of Forrest Gump are less conspicuous than in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Death Suits You So Well or the performance capture achievements of Robert Zemeckis (The Polar Express, The Legend of Bewulf, Welcome to Marwen…), but they are present, and successful precisely because we forget them. If Forrest can cross American history and touch the public so much, the spectator must be immersed in the story, that he no longer thinks about the making of the VFX, even if these have required meticulous work and many digital retouching.

Trailer :

Forrest Gump: why Robert Zemeckis’ film is unforgettable

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